Valeria Jacobs uses her eye for texture and design to transform a Bay Area rental into a cozy family home.
Valeria Jacobs sitting on counter with paint roller
Photography by Valeria Jacobs
| Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

When Valeria Jacobs first toured her Castro Valley, California, cottage in 2018, she knew she'd need to make a few changes. She fell in love with the airy picture windows in the 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom house, but the place needed some customizing for her family of five. "For me, the most important thing was to make the space warm," says the entrepreneur and interior stylist. "I knew it needed some fixes, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money." 

Her first order of business was to create a nursery for their daughter, Eleanor. She started with a large-scale printed wall mural from Anewall as a jumping-off point, then added lots of cozy layers to make it welcoming for a one-year-old. In her sons' bedroom, Domenic and Fadrique, she painted the bottom half of the wall a moody green, mimicking the effect of wainscoting in a more modern—and budget-friendly—way. 

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living room and dining room
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

The jute rug in the living room is a constant, but Jacobs prefers layering vintage ones on top as the mood strikes.

wood paneled kitchen with white table
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

A cozy breakfast nook in the kitchen is the perfect sunny spot for casual meals.

close-up wooden book shelf with decorations
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

On the bookcase, wooden beads keep company with a pair of bulls that came home with the couple after a trip to Cuzco and are believed to keep a home safe and happy.

Jacobs house exterior
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

Jacobs fell in love with the 1,400-square-foot cottage thanks in part to the airy picture windows.

family entryway with hand-painted accent wall
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

In the entryway, Jacobs hand-painted an accent wall and hung a treasured Peruvian painting that her mother gave her.

boys two-toned green and white bedroom
Credit: Photography by Madison Holmlund/Glitter Guide

In the boys' room, Jacobs layers colors and textiles with a vintage Turkish rug, playful Ikea sheets, and velvet pillows against a rich green wall.

shed and outdoor space
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

A custom shed houses a collection of vintage rugs, and the outside space is just the right size for an al fresco family meal.

master bedroom with peach accent wall
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

A soft peach accent wall brightens up the master bedroom and makes the dark woven headboard pop.

Valeria and her daughter on couch
Credit: Photography by Madison Holmlund/Glitter Guide

Eleanor's nursery has space for a sofa and Jacobs' signature mix of cozy textiles and colorful pillows.

narrow white bathroom with black vanity
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

A dark green cabinet and vintage runner add color and interest to the white bathroom.

Jacobs family on couch in living room
Credit: Photography by Madison Holmlund/Glitter Guide

The gallery wall in the living room is a rotating collection of photos and art from the couple's native Peru.

living room with fireplace
Credit: Photography by Madison Holmlund/Glitter Guide

To dress up the plain fireplace, Jacobs applied vinyl tile stickers. 

dining room with large wood table
Credit: Photography by Valeria Jacobs

A favorite renter-friendly trick? Switch out the lighting as Jacobs did here in the dining room, adding a sleek modern chandelier.

For the living room, a mix of photographs and art from her native Peru was the starting point. "A gallery wall is very personal, with photos that tell a story about the family that lives inside the house," Jacobs says. "And for my kids, it's a reminder of the happy times we've had together." 

The keys to adding personality to a rental, says Jacobs, are layers, accessories, and creative work-arounds. Just take the contact-paper "tile" she added around the fireplace and the vinyl adhesive decals she installed in the kitchen for a subway tile–inspired backsplash—both convey a custom-tailored feel without the cost or permanence. 

On trips to the thrift store, she collects baskets as an affordable way to add texture and character to a room—either as wall decor or simply to organize. "In a small space, clutter can add up fast," she says. "Donate often and don't buy something if you don't have anywhere to put it!" Other tricks she used to make the rental feel more spacious included hanging curtains a few inches higher than window frames to create the illusion of taller ceilings and using rugs to define different areas within a space.

Her biggest investment was putting a shed in the garden to store inventory for her home-decor company, Rebecca & Genevieve, named for her grandmother and mother. Jacobs launched the business to help support her husband, Paul, as he earned his degree in mechanical engineering. "I was looking for a decorative outlet and a way to help provide for our family," she says. What began as Jacobs selling a dozen vintage Turkish rugs a month via Instagram has become a thriving business that includes pillows, art, and design-consulting services. 

Next on her list? The family of five is buying a home, and Jacobs can't wait to start the design process all over again. "Decorating this house has given me the confidence I needed to express myself and be myself," she says. "To be able to share more of the things I love with my followers, and also to provide for my family while spending time with them, is what I love most."

This article originally appeared in our Harvest 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.